Mobile Communications in Japan, August 2006: Mass Migration to 3G

By November 04, 2006

The Japanese Telecommunications Carriers Association (TCA) has published the latest statistics on cell phone subscribers and mobile Internet users in Japan. As of August 31st, there were 93.5 million cell phone subscribers in Japan, 81.3 million of whom also subscribed to a mobile Internet service from one of the three leading operators. In the same month, KDDI again won the most new customers (+119,800 for a total of 26.2 million subscribers), followed by NTT DoCoMo (+113,000, total of 51.9 million). Vodafone/Softbank Mobile attracted only 16,000 new customers (15.2 million total). That’s less than PHS (Personal Handyphone System) Willcom, which snagged 48,300 new subscribers (4.19 million total).

The migration to 3G is becoming massive for the three main operators. NTT DoCoMo lost 780,600 of its 2G users, but gained 893,600 new 3G subscribers, which brings the total number of the operator’s Foma subscribers to 28.2 million. KDDI, the only CDMA2000 1x system operator, has 23.4 million 3G users, of whom 276,800 are new 3G customers. In August, Vodafone lost 300,600 of its 2G users, gained 316,600 customers for 3G (new customers + former 2G users).

Consequently, Vodafone now has a total of 4.3 million 3G subscribers. This success can be attributed to its 905SH handset being equipped with a One-seg (Japan’s mobile digital terrestrial television or DTT) tuner. Between June and August, the 905SH became the top selling DTT mobile phone in Japan. Vodafone’s 705SH being the top selling mobile phone overall in Japan also helped move subscribers to 3G.

When it comes to mobile Internet services, EZweb attracted the most new subscribers (+125,900 customers for a total of 21.3 million), ahead of NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode (+96,100 for a total of 47 million), and Vodafone Live! (+19,500, total of 12.9 million).

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